Thursday, June 11, 2009
Back to the Bookshelf: Pastors are Not Professionals
I have to admit that the first few chapters were a rollercoaster ride for me. I bought the book with one expectation, the first chapter met that expectation, then the second two went another direction altogether. Piper opens with:
We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet….Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. (pg 1)
I was excited to read a book from a veteran pastor analyzing the current state of professional ministers, and the details of how the prophetic role of pastor is incompatible with the professional mentality of a CEO. But that is not what Piper wrote.
His next few chapters began to deal with a few of Piper’s pet theological issues and how important they are to the life of the church. If you have read Piper, you know he has a handful of themes that run throughout his preaching and writing, and honestly, a couple of them wear thin for me after a little while. For example, Piper is an ardent traditionalist/compatibalist when it comes to male/female roles, and though I disagree with some of the justifications of his position, I don’t mind reading his mind on the issue. But when he managed to squeeze that into several of his chapters while citing his own works on the matter, it got a little old for me.
But once I got over my initial shock about the purpose and direction of the book, I settled into a wonderful and incredibly lucrative read. This book is not an analysis of professionalism versus pastoring, it is a work of pastoral theology. What kinds of things should be important from behind the pulpit, and what kinds of lifestyles are necessary in the lives and careers of pastors? The chapters, which average a very readable nine pages long, have titles like, “Brothers, Consider Christian Hedonism,” “Brothers, Let Us Query the Text,” “Brothers, Read Christian Biographies,” and “Brothers, Our Affliction is for Their Comfort.” Piper’s book is essentially a call to action; a call to have pastors regain their prophetic role before Scripture and before God, and to live lives that may become their congregations’ comfort and guide.
There is an oddity or two to the book. The one that sticks out to me occurs in the pull-quotes that open each chapter. Most books that contain these cite other authors than the one writing the book to make their point. This one, however, cited John Piper probably 80-90% of the time. So Piper was quoting Piper to help make Piper’s point.
The book is very well-cited. In fact, it is a wealth of resource material on several issues. For example, he encourages pastors to read biographies of Christians who have made a difference in this world. He has a chapter specifically devoted to that issue in which he provides several good possibilities, but then it is evident throughout the rest of the book that he has read a lot of them himself, and he cites them often.
Overall, the book’s value lies it its break from the standard fare of pastoral leadership. Piper is not at all concerned that we are competent professionals (as his opening chapter makes abundantly clear). He is concerned that we present the glorious truths of the Gospel to our congregations and that we live lives that reflect those truths. And, in my opinion, in a world that just doesn’t know what a pastor does (but which is abundantly clear on what CEOs do), his call is a necessary one if we are to regain—in the eyes of God and in the eyes of our congregations—the uniquely biblical role of pastor.
To see this review among others by pastors and for pastors, visit Pastor's Books.